FORT BRAGG, N.C. –
As sunrise cuts through the thick, humid morning air, Sgt. 1st Class Jessica Weigel ascends a log ladder at the Air Assault Obstacle Course during the 2019 Army Reserve Best Warrior Competition (ARBWC).
As Weigel is urged higher and higher with cheers of encouragement from fellow Best Warrior candidates and drill sergeant cadre, she successfully ascends the obstacle and proceeds to the next.
Despite having just completed a 12-mile foot march through the Longleaf pines and near waist-deep water weighed down with a 35-pound ruck sack and M4 rifle, she maintains her level of motivation.
The Army Reserve Best Warrior showcases the capability, combat-readiness, and lethality of America's Army Reserve.
Weigel, from Victoria, Kansas, is a health care specialist with the 388th Multifunctional Medical Battalion, 139th Medical Brigade, 807th Medical Command (Deployment Support), is one of approximately 60 U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers taking part in this year's competition, being held June 23-28.
"My main goal is to do my best and never give up," Weigel said. "With this competition, they're looking at so many things that even if you think that you're behind, sometimes you may actually be ahead, so you never want to give up."
For Weigel, the 2019 ARBWC signifies a chance for her to not only enrich her Army Reserve career but also fulfill a personal sense of accomplishment.
"I always like a physical challenge, and it kind of takes us as to what we are in the Army as Soldiers first," Weigel said. "I was originally thinking on passing this to the person below me, but being that this is my last opportunity to do this, I felt like I should go on with it."
Weigel attributes her battalion command sergeant major as the foremost voice of encouragement for her commitment to ARBWC.
"Sgt. 1st Class Weigel is very high-speed, intelligent, great at physical fitness, and is a very knowledgeable Soldier," said Command Sgt. Maj. Clinton Schmitter. "So, we sent her to our brigade Best Warrior Competition, which she won, and she then went on to division level."
Although she juggles an extensive workload as an Active Guard Reserve (AGR) Soldier in her unit, that did not deter her resolve.
"Currently, we are the shortest-staffed MMB in the Army, with 11 downtrace units that we manage," Weigel said. "There's been an increase in demands, and we tend to work a lot of hours. So, that was my hesitation at first in attending the Best Warrior Competition, but I didn't want to let my sergeant major and others down when he recommended me.
"So, I took him up on his offer, and here I am," she said.
Weigel also attributes a large part of her readiness, physical, and mental prowess from her overseas deployment experiences.
"I knew that right after (Advanced Individual Training) that I was getting deployed. So right off the bat, I was able to put my job into practice in which a lot of people don't get the opportunity to do," Weigel said. "So, that was great, and getting to understand how an operational unit works and putting all of those pieces together, started me out with a very good foundation for the rest of my military career."
Weigel added that since returning from her deployment, she has not had an opportunity to utilize her Soldier skills.
"I'm looking forward to this training again," Weigel said.
Schmitter stated he expects Weigel to share her Best Warrior experience to influence other aspiring Soldiers.
"I would like for her to bring back what she has learned from all of the (competitions), and I like to send her around to the other units to discuss what she did, what she learned, and how doing these can make them understand the Army Reserve more since they can see different areas of training to compete," Schmitter said. "I really hope that with her going through this stage, it will allow her to mentor other junior Soldiers to excel and hopefully compete in the future."
Regardless of whether or not she wins the competition, Weigel said she is nevertheless grateful for the opportunity.
"I appreciate Command Sgt. Maj. Schmitter for pushing and allowing me to have this opportunity, and I like to thank everyone else at the 388th MMB," Weigel said."Either way, I'm here to have a good time."